Showing where lightning strikes are happening

By Andrew Freiden - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - During a severe storm, lightning can be amazing to watch but it could also have deadly consequences. In fact, lightning kills more than 60 people per year. That's where lightning tracker comes in. This tool used by the First Warning Weather Team can show you where those strikes are happening.

It's another major advancement in television weather. Lightning data on-screen with the radar images; tell the meteorologist and the viewer if thunder and lightning are on their way.

"Now with lightning we can back up the data with 'This is a thunderstorm,'" said Meteorologist Tom Patton.

There's a huge difference between a heavy shower and a thunderstorm and it's our lightning data that makes that distinction clear. Brand new data shows up on our maps as a white lightning strike, painted on the map exactly where it happens.

"When it's a couple minutes old it turns yellow. That way we still know that lightning happened there but it's a little bit older of a strike," said Tom Patton. "During the big storms we get so many strikes at one time it's good to kinda record where the storm is coming from by looking at the older lightning strikes."

The data originates from an instrument that can sense the change in electrical charge that accompanies a lightning strike. Together with 100 sensors like it across the country, we can tell where lightning has hit, just moments afterward.

There's a sensor in Danville, Charlottesville, and the Eastern Shore. Those three can triangulate lightning location with near perfect accuracy.

"If we're picking up a lot of lightning we know that could be a pretty intense storm," said Tom Patton.

And thanks to lightning tracker, that information is now clear to see right here on NBC12.

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